Wind Star Entertainment
Because these cruises draw an active crowd, the real entertainment happens ashore. On a Greek Isles and Turkey sailing, passengers can take a gullet cruise (aboard a wooden sailing boat) on a ride among the Bodrum peninsula's magnificent caves. Cruises often feature naturalists, who offer port talks. It's a good idea to attend these port talks to learn about the excursions offered and to select those that are best suited to your activity level and interests.
Onboard, the social hub of the ship is the Lounge on Deck 3. It has contemporary furnishings with comfy arm chairs and sofas, a projection screen for video presentations, a corner bar and a piano. The lounge has large open spaces with a center stage that doubles as a dance floor. Large picture windows enhance the experience and give passengers wide, sweeping views of the sea. The Lounge is used as a meeting place for shore tours and to host folkloric performances, lectures, and pre- and post-dinner cocktails and appetizers.
You won't find any Vegas-style shows, a la mainstream mega-ships, but that doesn't mean music and dancing are no-no's. A pianist plays nightly in the Lounge before and after dinner. Local entertainers might also come aboard in certain ports.
On the night of the poolside BBQ, the crew organized an outdoor deck party. The ship's pianist subbed in as disc jockey, and the crew performed a couple of well-rehearsed if not perfected line-dances ("Footloose," anyone?), with passengers joining in the fun. The party lasted to well past midnight. Crewmembers said they adjust the music and dances to the tastes of the cruise travelers onboard.
Here's a secret, though: the crew will organize a shindig for whoever's willing to stay up and boogie anytime -- not just after the BBQ. The following night, a group of us asked the bar staff to turn up the radio for an impromptu dance party revival, which ended up being very well attended. (Photo op: Above the Pool Bar on the starboard side is an adorable mini-disco ball that's quite possibly the smallest at sea. It's certainly the smallest we've ever seen!)
Finally, though there's not a huge focus on gambling, there is a small casino off the port side of the Lounge that is open when the ship is at sea. A few slot machines in denominations of 25 cents to one dollar are open from about 10 a.m. Two gaming tables -- a Caribbean stud poker table ($3 minimum) and a blackjack table ($2) -- are open in the evenings and during scheduled tournaments. We never saw more than one passenger in there at a time, except for tourney times.
Wind Star Public Rooms
Passengers board Wind Star on Deck 3, midship, near the reception desk, which doubles as the shore excursions form drop-off area. Reception only keeps certain hours, though you can dial housekeeping for any after-hours assistance. A spruced up lobby features a fountain with cascading glass crystals.
Walking aft, you'll find the Signature Shop, a small duty-free shop with just the necessities -- sunscreen, painkillers, batteries, toothpaste, etc. -- as well as a few gifts that include jewelry, perfume and clothing. Hours fluctuate, and the shop is not open when the ship is docked; check your daily program for opening and closing times.
The library, located next to the gift shop, has only a few shelves of books (the bulk of which is made up of travel guides) and about four times as many DVD's. Two computer stations are available for connecting to the Internet, though laptop users can access bow-to-stern Wi-Fi. Packages are available, but they're costly: 50 megabytes for $66 or 100 megabytes for $150. (Note that this is different from Internet offerings on most other ships, which usually charge per-minute fees or sell packages of minutes.) The connection is, as is standard at sea, slow. Consider waiting until you can hit an Internet cafe ashore.
All the way aft is the Lounge, which is the ship's primary gathering spot. Our first introduction to the Lounge was during the check-in process, which is quite civilized. You show up at the dock, hand over your luggage and walk up the gangway, which takes mere minutes. Then, you fill out the necessary paperwork in the Lounge, amid complimentary mimosas and passed canapes, rather than in a stuffy terminal.
One public space that's a bit of a surprise is the navigation bridge. Wind Star has an open bridge policy, which means you can stop by at pretty much any time to see what the captain and his crew are up to. Only six passengers are allowed in the wheelhouse at anytime, and alcoholic beverages are not permitted.
Smoking is not permitted inside of the ship, but Cigars under the Stars was offered one evening during the cruise at the pool bar. Smokers can find a designated smoking area on the starboard side of Deck 4.
Wind Star Spa & Fitness
You'll find a small saltwater pool and adjacent hot tub on Deck 4 in front of the Pool Bar; both are open from 7 a.m. until midnight. On deck, the sleek and streamlined teak woods are polished and inviting, with an ample supply of padded lounge chairs and umbrellas. If you'd like to walk around the deck, eight laps equal a mile. A piece of advice from experience: The best time to fit in that stroll is before 8 a.m. -- before the deck chairs are put out and the sunbathers show up. Early morning is also a great time for watching the crew raise the sails (weather permitting) and spotting dolphins around the ship.
There's a small gym onboard, outfitted with two treadmills, a stepper, an elliptical, a weight machine and some free weights and exercise bands. The fitness center is open from 6 a.m. until midnight. Pathway Pilates and yoga are offered on deck. Besides a fitness scale in the gym, there's also a medical scale in the hallway across the way, just outside the infirmary.
However, our favorite stay-fit feature onboard is the water sports platform, located aft on Deck 2, which is open at certain times when the ship is at anchor. (Check the daily program for hours, weather conditions permitting.) It became a ritual to come back from a busy, hot day and cool off with a few laps in the deep blue sea. Beyond swimming, other activities include kayaking, sailing, water-skiing, windsurfing and diving. Floating mats and tubes were also available on our trip, and you can check out complimentary snorkel equipment to use throughout the cruise, to be returned the day before debarkation.
Bicycles can be rented for excursions, too.
The Wind Spa, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., is located on Deck 3 off the Lounge on the starboard side. It received all new soft goods during the 2012 refurbishment and features a salon for hair and nails, as well as two treatment rooms for spa services. The WindSpa offers facials, massages, body sculpting, wraps, body composition analysis, personal training, men's haircuts and shaves, and even teeth whitening. Elemis products are sold in the spa, and we got a sales pitch for them following our treatments. If you don't want to be bothered, it's ok to tell them you're not interested in buying products prior to your treatment.